THE number of women on the boards of Britain’s top 350 listed companies has jumped by 50 per cent in five years, a government-backed study showed.
There were 1,026 female board members in January this year, compared with 682 in October 2015, according to a final annual report from the Hampton-Alexander Review.
“There’s been excellent progress for women leaders in business over the last 10 years or more, with boards and shareholders determined to see change,” said the report’s chair Philip Hampton.
“The progress has been strongest with non-executive positions on boards, but the coming years should see many more women taking top executive roles.
“That’s what is needed to sustain the changes made,” he added.
The organisation, which set out to promote higher female representation in the corporate world, added that 34.3 percent of board positions at the identified firms were held by women, compared with 21.9 per cent five years earlier.
It showed also that females occupied 36.2 per cent of board positions at the 100 firms listed on London’s top stocks index, up from 32.4 per cent in 2019.
For the first time, two FTSE 100 firms have more women on their board than men — alcoholic drinks giant Diageo and water company Severn Trent.
The British government welcomed the report but said more women still needed to make it into the top ranks.
“As we look to build back better from the pandemic, it’s important businesses keep challenging themselves to use all the talents of our workforce and open up the top ranks for more, highly-accomplished women,” said business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng.
The study comes as Britain’s leading firms also face pressure to address under-representation of ethnic minorities on management boards.
The Investment Association, which represents UK investment managers, said that it will highlight FTSE 350 companies that do not disclose either the ethnic diversity of their board, or a credible action plan to achieve targets of having at least one director from an ethnic minority background by 2021.
“The UK’s boardrooms need to reflect the diversity of modern-day Britain,” said Andrew Ninian, director for stewardship and corporate governance at the Investment Association.
“With three-quarters of FTSE 100 companies failing to report the ethnic make-up of their boards in last year’s annual general meeting season, investors are now calling on companies to take decisive action.”
Ninian added that his organisation would also shine a spotlight on companies’ failure to address climate change and those who had approved excessive executive pay.